Managing Client Expectations

Posted: by Adam Gibbs

It’s highly likely at some point in business you will encounter the “difficult client”. Often there are warning signs, occasionally you will be blindsided. Notice that the client who always phones at closing time with an urgent matter, who sends you emails with increasing demands, who appears 5 minutes before lunch is often the client who fails to pay your invoices on time.

You can simply wish this client would disappear, however, this is neither practical nor professional. Financial pressures and the desire to provide a professional service mean that the reality is these clients need to be both accepted and dealt with.

Whilst we would readily agree that there is the odd sociopath out there the reality is that sometimes very nice, normal people, dealing with stressful situations, can cause you problems.
This is where having procedures in place from the outset can assist you. These help alleviate the difficult situations and also benefit all clients. The end result is no stress for you, happy and satisfied clients and a financially rewarding result for your business at the end of the day.

Below are some tactics for dealing with tricky clients:
1.Detail the process (and put it in writing)
Tell the client what you will and will not be doing for them. Have a clearly set out costs structure in place including fees for late payment.

2. Narrow the scope
Provide your client with the worst case scenario. Providing the sometimes harsh truth of the matter upfront can lessen the impact of disappointment later. You are much better off over delivering than under delivering and if expectations are realistic this is easier to achieve.

3.Realise one person’s version of events may not be the whole story
Your client will, at some point, fib, exaggerate, tell a little white lie or outright blatant lie, expect it. By documenting client’s statements and requesting details about it at later date you may be able to understand what actually occurred without upsetting your client.

4.Take a deep breath
Take the fuel out of the fire and you allow some perspective. The service you are providing is not personal, it’s business. Respond accordingly without emotion or aggression.

5.Get ahead of the client
Provide good news or pre-empt the next stage of the process, the client will appreciate the communication and feel confident that you are invested in their matter.

6. Communicate
It’s usually fear or insecurity that causes a difficult client. Talk to them. Keep them advised of progress. Problems exacerbate in isolation so keep the lines of communication open. Personal relationships are the key to a successful business no matter what the profession or trade. If you are more than just a service provider and they are more than just a dollar the relationship will be more successful.

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